Local students compete in science bowl

By Joseph Pratt

March 7, 2014

Joseph Pratt


Do you know what the oxidizing agent is in the citric acid cycle that is derived in part from the vitamin niacin? How about what the most common astronomical term is for the geometrical configuration where an inferior planet is between the Earth and the Sun?

These are the types of questions high school students answered at Shawnee State University Friday, as they competed in the South Central Ohio Regional Science Bowl, sponsored by the Department of Energy and Fluor B&W Portsmouth. 135 students gathered and spread out between 27 teams from the 16 different high schools in the southern Ohio region.

Many schools even competed against themselves, as seen in the very first round of the morning, at 9 a.m., as Northwest I barely beat Northwest II, with what the judges called both very respectable scores of 46 and 38.

Greg Simonton has been a program analyst for the United States Department of Energy for six years. He also stepped up last year as the South Central Ohio Regional Science Bowl coordinator. This is only the second year that the Science Bowl has been hosted locally and Simonton said he is very pleased with it.

“There was not one in our region, even though we have a rather large installation. If anyone in our area wanted to participate, they would have to travel to Cincinnati. We were only seeing one or two schools going every year. Since we do have such a large installation, it only made sense that we would start hosting one for south central Ohio,” he said.

Since the South Central Ohio Regional Science Bowl started last year, the amount of participating schools has multiplied eight-fold.

“It is a day where we can highlight science and math, but the students have fun while doing it. To me, this is part of a larger effort to reach out and engage kids, because they are the future,” Simonton said. “I think this event builds up the students that have a good understanding of math and sciences, but also gives them a better understanding about our facility, because we hand out information on our company. We are creating more informed stakeholders to take over one day.”

The winner of the event will be given an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. to compete in the Office of Science National Science Bowl in late April. The winner of the national competition will win prizes for the team members and their school.

Last year victor of the regional competition was Zane Trace High School and senior Beau Bilek has returned this year, saying that winning last year has given his team confidence going into this year’s competition.

Zane Trace won their first match of the morning 44-16, against New Boston High School.

“It was really an awesome experience. Even just being there to listen to all of the professors speak that they bring in from all over the nation was rewarding in itself. I think one professor from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) was there and she was talking about how she is developing armor for the United States Army, using designs from animals. Experiences like those make it so awesome,” Simonton said.

Simonton said that the winning team will want for nothing on their trip, because everything is paid and everything is first class. The students also get special treatment and tours when they are visiting the country’s capital.

“They are our leaders of tomorrow. There is nothing more important that we do or could ever do than help kids accomplish all they can, because they are the ones who will, one day, be taking over,” Simonton said. “Investments in kids are the ones that pay off on both ends.”

Joseph Pratt can be contacted at the Portsmouth Daily Times at 740-353-3101, EXT 287 or by Twitter @JosephPratt03.